Tennessee Trainer and 4-Year-Old Mustang Win Extreme Mustang Makeover Eastern Stampede


Gary Stanfill is donating his prize money to hippotherapy programsBoots Burro’s life was probably on the losing track as he stood in a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holding facility in June, but that all changed when trainer Gary Stanfill drew him as his mount for the Extreme Mustang Makeover Eastern Stampede and the pair took the win October 24 in the $15,000 Legends division.

The four-year-old sorrel gelding didn’t even have a name, just a number that identified him as one of 30,000 wild horses under the care of the BLM, who provides wild horses to the Mustang Heritage Foundation for adoption through its Extreme Mustang Makeover competitions around the country.

Stanfill, of Lexington, Tenn., said the gelding surprised him. “I was very surprised at how athletic he turned out to be and how quickly he came around,” said the trainer, who has been involved with American Quarter Horses most of his life. “This has been a great experience for me; a fun experience.”

Stanfill’s win didn’t come easy, though, as he bested a field of 28 in the Legends division. In a rare tie for first place, Stanfill had to go up against Dillinger and Hank Hepperly of Walland, Tenn., in a “mustang smackdown” to determine the winner after both had performed and received the same score for their freestyle performance. With music selections by management and two minutes to perform, Boots Burro repeated his ease of movement and lead changes, not to mention his clear connection to the rider, to take the win over Dillinger, whose sliding stops were a crowd favorite.

Stanfill earned $5,000 for the win, which he plans to donate along with funding raised through Lexington businesses to a local hippotherapy program. Boots had a strong following at the show, having already raised a fan base in Lexington when Stanfill made front page news for riding Boots into the mayor’s office, as well into a local bank lobby to make a deposit.

The more than 90 horses in the competition were scored on body condition, which measures the overall health and condition of the animal; an in hand course, which requires the trainer to demonstrate their ability to handle the Mustang on foot, including moving through an obstacle course, picking up the horse’s feet and loading it into a trailer; and a “horse course,” which requires the trainer to ride the horse through a series of obstacles and complete basic maneuvers, such as walk, trot and lope, stop and back.

Three levels of competition were presented during the Extreme Mustang Makeover, including Idols and Legends, featuring three and four year old geldings, as well as Mission 008, featuring yearlings with trainers age 18 and under. Idol and Legend levels are determined by the trainers own assessment of the horse’s progress and level of ability. A total of $30,000 was offered in the competition, with a $5,000 prize going to the Legends champion, while the Idol champion will take home $3,000 and the youth champion taking home $1,500.

After 100 days of work, on October 23, Jessica Davis and her four-year-old American Mustang Rock’n Red traveled from Janesville, WI to Murfreesboro, Tenn. to compete in the Extreme Mustang Makeover Eastern Stampede where they were named the champions in the Idols Division.

Performing to the tune “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” it was hard to imagine the sorrel gelding as a wild horse with moves that included great extension at the trot and a classical frame worthy of any dressage arena. The pair bested a field of 34 contenders and earned $3,000 of the $10,000 purse and a championship Gist Silversmith buckle for the win.

A total of 22 youth returned to Murfreesboro with their young charges and inspired the audience with their dedication and effort. Taking the Mission 008 championship was 18-year-old Diane Ward of Brandon, Miss. Bringing her dance experience to the arena, Diane and her palomino gelding Docs Golden Allegro wowed the crowd with a performance the incorporated flame and finesse. The pair earned $1,500 of the $5,000 purse.

The MHF on cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management created the Extreme Mustang Makeover event to highlight the recognized value of mustangs through a national training competition. The event will give the public a unique opportunity to see the results of wild horses becoming trained mounts and then participate in a competitive bidding process to adopt one of these treasured animals.

The purpose of the competition is to showcase the beauty, versatility, and trainability of these rugged horses that roam freely on public lands throughout the West, where the Bureau of Land Management protects them under Federal law. The BLM periodically removes excess animals from the range to ensure heard health and protect rangeland resources. Thousands of removed animals are then made available each year to the public for adoption.


  1. That is awesome! I have volunteered at The Saddle Light Center for Therapeutic Horsemanship for almost 8 years now and it is a wonderful and amazing program. Congratulations and thank you for your generous donation to hippotherapy!


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